We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

You’d need a heart of stone not to laugh…

Ask not for whom the tik toks

“TikTok and WeChat: US to ban app downloads in 48 hours”, reports the BBC.

All things considered, I do still want Trump to win the US election, but this sounds like a stupid measure. Banning things is almost always intrinsically stupid, as is running your politics by the threat of bans. It will also lose him votes from people who happen to like TikTok.

I suspect that like Sadiq Khan’s ban on Uber operating in London (the appeal against which will be heard on 28th September), Trump’s move is basically a shakedown. Note the delay before implementation in both cases. Either ban could be reversed at a moment’s notice for the right price. So far as I know Londoners can still use Uber now, and that will continue until the appeals process is exhausted, which could mean ten days or ten years. As for Tiktok in the US,

If a planned partnership between US tech firm Oracle and TikTok owner ByteDance is agreed and approved by President Trump, the app will not be banned.

Samizdata quote of the day

Who is it that benefits from clearing? The clearing houses like it, obviously, because they makes that basis point or two. But the people who really benefit – as with the bread – are the people who get their clearing done. Which is why they’re willing to pay to have it done of course. And, in the modern financial world, if you’re not getting your clearing done then you go bust.

So, the EU Commission has just graciously announced that the European banking system doesn’t have to go bust. Which is nice of them, of course it is, but it would be better to report it correctly, no?

Tim Worstall pointing out that ‘European Union announces that EU Banks don’t all have to go bust because Brexit’.

Samizdata quote of the day

“Fall is almost here in California. So we know the annual script. A few ostracized voices will again warn in vain of the need to remove millions of dead trees withered from the 2013–14 drought and subsequent infestations, clean up tinderbox hillsides, and beef up the fire services. They will all be ignored as right-wing nuts or worse. Environmentalists will sneer that the new forestry sees fires as medicinal and natural, and global warming as inevitable because of “climate deniers.” Late-summer fires will then consume our foothills, mountains, and forests. Long-dead trees from the drought will explode and send their pitch bombs to shower the forest with flames. Lives, livelihoods, homes, and cabins will be lost — the lamentable collateral damage of our green future. Billions of dollars will go up in smoke. The billowing haze and ash will cloud and pollute the state for weeks if not months. Tens of thousands will be evacuated and their lives disrupted — and those are the lucky.”

Victor Davis Hanson.

Gary Lineker’s own goal

BBC football pundit Gary Lineker just brought the end of the BBC licence fee measurably closer.

In this tweet he quoted the BBC Press Office saying he had signed a new five year deal with them and said,

“Oh dear. Thoughts are with the haters at this difficult time.”

In the last few months the BBC has turned a corner, the one leading to a blind alley in a bad part of town. The strategy of appointing a former Conservative politician as Director-General might have worked ten years ago but comes too late now. The almighty row about the last night of the Proms finally convinced many of those older viewers and listeners who were once its core audience that the state broadcaster does not like them very much. The Beeb’s protestations that its proposal to omit the words of Land of Hope and Glory and Rule, Britannia was because of Covid-19 rather than BLM were not believed. Partly this disbelief was because – until it became clear how big the row was going to be – the BBC itself had given its usual sympathetic coverage to those saying patriotic anthems should be dropped from the Proms because “How are we going to break down the institutional system, if we hang on to these [songs]?”. Partly it was because this was the last straw, not the first. There had been many straws like this:

…during a debate about “white women’s privilege” on No Country for Young Women, a podcast devoted to racial issues, hosted by Monty Onanuga and Sadia Azmat.

Amelia Dimoldenberg, a YouTuber who appeared on the episode, urged white women to “educate yourself, read some books, so you are aware of the histories of white people and race”. She added: “Don’t be so loud. Stop shouting and stop attacking black voices — instead you should be uplifting them.”

The advice was echoed by her fellow guest Charlotte Lydia Riley, a historian at Southampton University, who said that white women should “try not to be defensive about your whiteness”. She added: “A lot of the time when women are Karens it’s because they are completely unwilling to accept that their whiteness is a privilege . . . They feel like they don’t want to interrogate how their behaviour might be racist.”

The guests, both white, suggested that white women should stop expressing opinions. “Get out the way, basically,” said Dr Riley, to which Ms Dimoldenberg agreed: “Yeah, basically leave.”

A lot of white women were moved to comment on that Times article. They expressed complete willingness to “basically leave” the BBC, as soon as the law allowed them to do so. Middle-aged, middle-class Times readers would once have been the most eloquent defenders of the BBC and what a previous Director-General delicately called its “unique method of funding”, a euphemism for force.

Who else among former loyalists has the British Broadcasting Corporation annoyed recently? The old. Personally I thought Tony Blair’s decision in 2000 to issue free TV licences to those over the age of 75 was sentimental nonsense, but as with all subsidies, cancelling them makes people angry. Who’s left? Surely that would be fans of Match of the Day, the longest-running football television programme in the world?

Maybe, maybe not. Match of the Day‘s lead presenter is the aforementioned Gary Lineker who is so famous that I know who he is. Until his recent £400,000 pay cut, agreed to help out his employer in hard times and, er, increase gender balance among BBC salaries, Gary Lineker was earning £1.75 million per annum. To have presented Match of the Day for as long as he has at the salary he commands (“commands” as in someone at the command economy of the BBC commands that he shall have that amount), Mr Lineker must be doing something right. But he is not doing Twitter right if he thinks reminding people that he is now down to a measly £1.35 million will go down well with the average football fan, especially since he had agreed as a condition of the deal that he he would tweet more carefully.

Someone called Michael Rafferty replied,

Let’s not be smug Gary iv not worked since Christmas due to this pandemic… It’s comments like that put me off people like yourself …

jim ferguson says,

I dont hate you Gary but as an ex serviceman on a lowly pension after serving my country putting my life on the line 23 years and then having to pay to keep you in that style you turn your nose up at us feel its unfair when i dont want to or should be forced too pay for it

LSW1 says,

Shouldn’t you be on your way out so they can replace you with someone younger and more diverse?

Samizdata quote of the day

“According to this theory of leadership, convictions don’t count for much: politics is a science, and leaders are little more than vectors, conveying carefully calibrated versions of externally-validated truths to the masses in order to secure maximum support and compliance. Reports from the cabinet subgrouping in charge of Covid policy suggest that the new ‘rule of six’ was chosen instead of eight not for epidemiological reasons, but for purposes of “messaging clarity”. It was thought that, since the number six was already out there, it should be retained for simplicity’s sake; eight would only complicate things. And so the lives of England’s 55 million citizens are to be drastically altered “for the foreseeable future” according to the principles of campaign science.”

Freddie Sayers.

Why black graduates of the USC Marshall School of Business may start finding it hard to get international jobs

Back in January 2016 Victor Mair, professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania, started an interesting discussion in the blog “Language Log” about a common Chinese word that sounds like a racial insult in English. Professor Mair wrote,

As soon as I read “a phrase that sounds uncannily like the N-word” in the first paragraph, I knew exactly what my colleague’s friend was talking about. The Chinese grad student was saying “nèige 那个 (that)”.

Grammatically, “nèige 那个” begins as a demonstrative, but it is frequently attenuated to become a pause particle or filler word. It is often uttered many times in succession, thus “nèige nèige nèige…”, and people who have a tendency to stutter may get stuck on it for an embarrassingly long time. Even individuals who are not actually stutterers may have an excessive addiction to such words.

That guy Mair must have a time machine. Scroll forward four years to 2020. Inside Higher Education reports,

Professor suspended for saying a Chinese word that sounds like a racial slur in English.

In a controversial decision, the University of Southern California replaced a professor of business communication with another instructor in one of his classes for saying a Chinese word that sounds like an English slur.

Late last month, Greg Patton, the professor, was teaching a lesson on “filler words” in other languages — think “err,” “um” or “like” in English — in his master’s-level course on communication for management.

“Taking a break between ideas can help bring the audience in,” Patton said, according to a recording of one of the Zoom course sections and a transcription that appeared next to him on screen. “In China,” for instance, he continued, “the common pause word is ‘that that that.’ So in China it might be ne ga, ne ga, ne ga.”

Patton, who has worked in China but is not a scholar of Chinese, did not warn students that 那个, or ne ga, (alternatively spelled nà ge and nèige) sounds something like the N-word — which it does. And some or all of the Black students across three sections of the course were offended by what they’d heard. So they wrote a letter to the dean of the Marshall School of Business, Geoffrey Garrett, among others, describing Patton as insensitive and incapable of teaching the three-week intensive communications course.

Whereupon one would expect to read that the University of Southern California told them that anyone above the age of ten should know that words which are harmless in one language but rude in another are ubiquitous, and that an intensive course on business communications that left out mention of such words would be a con. That’s the English meaning of “con”, not the French one.

“Whereupon one would expect…”, wrote I, sounding dead posh. Who was I kidding, this is 2020. What actually happened was this:

… Garrett, dean of the business school, sent students an email saying that Patton was being replaced as instructor of the course, effective immediately.

“It is simply unacceptable for faculty to use words in class that can marginalize, hurt and harm the psychological safety of our students,” Garrett wrote. Patton “repeated several times a Chinese word that sounds very similar to a vile racial slur in English. Understandably, this caused great pain and upset among students, and for that I am deeply sorry.”

If the students’ “psychological safety” is harmed by the knowledge that unfortunate cross-linguistic homophones exist, maybe “business communication” is not the best subject for them. Business often involves meeting foreigners, who at any moment might forget who they are talking to and speak their own language. Even in America one is not safe from people who speak other languages!

While the change was presumably applauded by those students who urged action against Patton, his effective suspension from teaching the course angered many other students and alumni.

One petition for Patton’s reinstatement with thousands of signatures says, “For him to be censored simply because a Chinese word sounds like an English pejorative term is a mistake and is not appropriate, especially given the educational setting. It also dismisses the fact that Chinese is a real language and has its own pronunciations that have no relation to English.”

Ninety-four Marshall alumni, many of whom are Chinese and now live in China, wrote their own letter to the dean and other administrators, expressing support for Patton.

“All of us have gained enormous benefit from the academic leadership of Prof. Patton. His caring, wisdom and inclusiveness were a hallmark of our educational experience and growth at USC and the foundation of our continued success in the years following,” the named alumni wrote.

Moreover, they said, “We unanimously recognize Prof. Patton’s use of ‘na ge’ as an accurate rendition of common Chinese use, and an entirely appropriate and quite effective illustration of the use of pauses. Prof. Patton used this example and hundreds of others in our classes over the years, providing richness, relevance and real world impact.”

After a gap of four years, Professor Mair wrote an update of his 2016 post in the context of Greg Patton’s dismissal: “That, that, that…”, part 2.

It is well worth a read. It quotes the full text of the grovelling letter to students written by Dean Geoff Garrett, a copy of which should be printed out and kept in your medicine cabinet should need arise for a quick-acting emetic.

This comment by “Twill” resonated with me:

I suppose it is “unacceptable to use words that marginalize”, but perfectly acceptable to marginalize every other language on this planet by insisting that any words that might arbritrarily offend English speakers should be stricken from the dictionary, no matter what they actually mean or are used. I fail to see how we can “engage respectfully with one another while fostering and exemplifying the knowledge and skills needed to lead and shape our diverse and global world” if we don’t extend the courtesy of letting other languages speak for themselves.

And what’s the betting that these people, who demand their delicate ears be protected from the sounds of the most spoken language in the world, call Trump voters “hicks” and mock their supposed provincialism?

This will have a predictable effect on the value of a USC Marshall MBA. Imagine you are the CEO of an international company. You seek to fill an executive position that requires the postholder to move confidently between Western and Chinese business environments. Are you going to go for the candidate from a school where students are taught honestly about the potential pitfalls of cross-cultural communication, or the one from the USC Marshall School of Business who has only been fed the Disney version? The issue is not limited to that one word 那个, or to the Chinese language. It is about whether a potential employee can cope outside the bubble of an “elite” US academic institution.

And of course the bad effect on a candidate’s chances will be reinforced if the candidate is black, whether or not they personally had anything to do with this affair. No need to assume the potential employer is racist. They simply will prefer not to hire someone who has been primed to freak out when a Chinese colleague says the equivalent of “like, er, you know” for a word on the tip of their tongue.

Samizdata quote of the day

The obsession on colour is making for increased racism, resentment, and discrimination. Now, however, it’s just okay and even “good” to discriminate against whites, Jews, and Asians.

Amy Alkon

Samizdata quote of the day

A reluctance to acknowledge the specific religious motivations behind certain acts of terror makes it more difficult to develop the social initiatives, political strategies and security arrangements that we need to contain their possible spread in the future. Empty platitudes over the peacefulness of religious ideologies do not achieve much when it comes to maximising public security and community safety.

There should be strong pushback against those who wish to restrict the boundaries of much-needed discussions on radicalisation, extremism and terrorism. We need to be able to identify and comment on unusual behavioural patterns and religiously inspired ideological motivations. There is simply no room for thought-policing or political correctness in the realm of counter-extremism.

Dr Rakib Ehsan

It is good not to be surprised to see articles like this in the Times

But it would be even better not to have to still see articles like this in the Times:

Cannabis failures show why we need to legalise all drugs

Ian Birrell writes,

Carly Barton is a former university lecturer who suffered a stroke at the age of 24. It left her feeling as if her bones had been “replaced by red-hot pokers”. Doctors prescribed opiates of increasing strength but they left her feeling “zombied” and still in severe pain.

In desperation she smoked a joint and discovered that cannabis dulled the pain, enabling her to live a productive life. But she did not want to be a criminal and could not afford to spend thousands of pounds on private prescriptions. So she came up with a simple idea: a “cannabis card” to show police officers that she used the drug for health rather than recreational purposes.

It is thought that another million Britons who endure conditions such as arthritis, cancer and multiple sclerosis self-medicate with this drug. This is why Barton’s concept has been backed by police officers fed up with wasting their time. “I did not join the police to arrest people who are unwell and trying to manage their symptoms,” Simon Kempton, a Police Federation board member, has said.

This is a significant step forward. But why does progress on drug reform depend on ordinary citizens pushed to the limit and police officers infuriated about squandering time and resources? The reason, sadly, is that politicians privately accept their war on drugs has failed yet lack the nerve to sort out the mess they created even as it fuels gang violence and inflames racial tensions.

He goes on to describe how the police in some areas are effectively giving up on enforcing the prohibition of other drugs as well. It will not be a surprise to you that I think the outcome is good, but I feel more than a twinge of disquiet about the law effectively being changed by the will of the police. Selective enforcement can as easily be a tool of the oppressor as of the liberator. To see what I mean, amuse yourselves by making a quick list of those who are and are not subject to the Covid-19 restrictions in your area.

Related posts:

  • There should be no law to forbid people parading in paramilitary uniforms
  • The equal oppression of the laws
  • Here we go again

    ITV News reports,

    Social gatherings of more than six people to be banned in England to limit spread of coronavirus

    Social gatherings of more than six people will be illegal in England from Monday as the Government seeks to curb the rise in coronavirus cases.

    Prime Minister Boris Johnson will use a press conference on Wednesday to announce the change in the law after the number of daily positive Covid-19 cases in the UK rose to almost 3,000.

    The legal limit on social gatherings will be reduced from 30 people to six.

    It will apply to gatherings indoors and outdoors – including private homes, as well as parks, pubs and restaurants.

    “I know that I will not be able to avoid destroying humankind.”

    That was a line from a Guardian op-ed written entirely by a robot. The machine was instructed to focus on why humans have nothing to fear from AI. I do not find this reassuring.